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Students and speech pathologist overcome remote learning struggles

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CBS 13's April Hettinger examines how a change in strategy is bringing success

SOMERTON, Ariz. (KYMA, KECY) - One student in the Gadsden Elementary School District (GESD) has seen incredible results after doing speech therapy for a couple years, even through online learning obstacles.

Since March, students and parents are having to re-work lesson plans and utilize technology. It has been especially difficult for special education students who need extra attention.

Sharon DeFranco, a speech language pathologist with GESD is making learning interactive from home.

She incorporates games and activities in her one-on-one therapy sessions with her students who are as young as five years old. All in an effort to keep them focused.

They also work on articulating their words. She has a unique method to make her mouth stand out.

"Well, a speech language pathologist working with a child is multi-sensory. By that I mean we use our eyes and our hands," DeFranco explained. "Obviously, that's why I'm wearing this bright red lipstick. It's not that I like it. It's just to zero in the child more on my mouth when I'm doing instruction."

Teachers were struggling to understand one student, Leonardo.

"His speech intelligibility was very, very low, but I knew there was more there," DeFranco stated. "You could just tell by the glow in his eyes."

DeFranco worked with him for many years, but the biggest part of the learning process was for parent like Teresa Ruvalcaba, Leonardo's mom.

"She speak with me and told me where can I help him, where can I tell him to try to do the best," Ruvalcaba said. "And I think she's a good teacher."

Leonardo, now a second grader, is reading above his grade level.

"He's better each day," Ruvalcaba explained. "He now is in regular classes almost all day when before he was on special classes."

Leonardo exceeded DeFranco's expectations and is blossoming in school.

"I want that child to be yackity, yackity, yackity," DeFranco joked.

Everyone involved in remote speech therapy has made adjustments by utilizing household items to practice sensory skills.

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April Hettinger

April was born and raised in San Diego where she loved the beach town and her two dogs, Lexi and Malibu. She decided to trade the beach for the snow and advanced her education at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.

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